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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Salt's future uncertain

Although the government will most likely never be able to remove the ubiquitous salt shaker from the American dinner table, recent research and pending policy changes might reduce sodium levels in restaurant and prepared foods.

A recent New England Journal of Medicine article reported that reducing salt intake by one-half teaspoon a day, between 54 and 99 fewer heart attacks, and almost the same amount of deaths, would occur each year. Additionally, the article reported that a regulatory intervention designed to achieve a reduction in salt intake of 3 grams per day would save 194,000 to 392,000 quality-adjusted life-years and $10 billion to $24 billion in health care costs annually.

This study comes on the heels of New York City’s National Salt Reduction Intiative urging manufacturers and restaurants to gradually reduce salt levels in foods by 25 percent over five years. Doing that would reduce the nation's salt intake by 20 percent, experts predict. California is considering similar initiatives.

A panel appointed by the Institute of Medicine is close to issuing a report that will make recommendation about reducing salt intake, including actions government and manufacturers can take, according to the New York Times.

To date, the Food and Drug Administration has not made any announcements about whether or not it will change salt’s Generally Recognized as Safe status or required label changes.

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